Dubai – MENA Herald: Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), the flagship Free Zone entity of Dubai and the trade and logistics hub for the ‎wider Middle East region, recently held a customer forum on the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Food Sector in the National Industries Park (formerly known as Technopark).

The FMCG and Food Sector in Jafza saw remarkable growth in the number of companies and the volume of trade in 2015. The development of logistics facilities in the free zone played a vital role, enabling customers to deliver goods quickly with the help of smart applications and efficient customs transactions.

The sector witnessed 7% growth a year over the past five years with over 500 companies from 61 countries around the world operating there. Businesses engaged in the sector come mainly from the Middle East Region (56%), Asia Pacific (17%), Europe (15%) and North America (7%).

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO, DP World and Chairman of ‎Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation‏ (PCFC), said: “

“Market trends indicate that the sector will again see major growth given increasing demand for retail space and the opening of new shopping malls which play a vital role in stimulating trade and the marketing of consumer goods.

“The FMCG and Food sector continues to grow at an accelerated pace in the Middle East and North Africa region, with the introduction of new businesses and products. Meanwhile, some existing companies have been expanding their production capacity, adopting the latest technology to increase production and provide high-quality goods. This will allow them to compete in global markets and to help drive the local economy.”

According to Bin Sulayem, population growth, higher income levels, increasing consumer spending, the rising number of tourists and tax-free consumer goods are stimulants to the sector’s development which will inevitably see higher demand for goods given modern lifestyles in the country.

He also noted that PCFC is keen to develop the sector through a variety of measures that will enable companies to grow their business and identify specific markets. He emphasized the need to encourage support for business to attract more foreign investments to the UAE and Dubai which will enhance the competitiveness of the national economy.

He added:
‎“PCFC continues to position Dubai as an international business hub by attracting leading multinationals ‎from across the world and facilitating them to serve the rapidly growing markets in the Middle East. ‎Jafza, therefore, play a key role in realizing the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed ‎Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make ‎Dubai number 1 country in the world in all fields’.

The sector’s continued growth reflects the Free Zone’s strength as a regional and global hub for the construction material. Evolution of Jafza as one of the leading free zones in the world is attributed to the guidelines provided by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai that focused on “growth driven by creativity and innovation”.

Jafza officials highlighted promising opportunities in the sector and the need to grasp business opportunities. They referred to the report issued recently by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce which predicts an optimistic outlook for the growth of the UAE’s retail market and consumer goods. It forecast that retail trade is likely to reach AED 200 billion by 2017, with a 7% annual growth rate on average.

Officials also noted that Jafza has been working on long-term plans to attract new businesses to the FMCG and Food sector through a package of incentives and the construction of sophisticated infrastructure based on customer demand. These will add to existing benefits such as no tax on imported and re-exported products simplified procedures for company registration and one stop shop services which all support sector development.

Markets
Meanwhile, Dubai Export highlighted the strategic importance and prospects of the sector for the local economy and its most significant overseas markets. It also reinforced the ongoing growth and prosperity of the sector locally and regionally.

E-Commerce
Speakers in the forum agreed that e-Commerce plays a major role in boosting the consumer goods market. Major brands have launched e-platforms to promote their products, targeting segments of the population particularly young people who represent a large proportion of shoppers.

A Platform for Dialogue
The customer forum also saw Jafza senior management and strategic partners discuss future trends in the sector, while addressing customer suggestions on collaboration to meet issues facing business and ways to increase efficiencies.

Jafza outlined its major initiatives including the development of sophisticated infrastructure and the construction of more facilities and warehouses, given high market demand.

The forum was also attended by a number of leading companies notably, FSL, the National Foodstuff Factory, Nestle, Gulf Seafood, Hunter Foods, Master Baker, the Chilly Willy Group and other FMCG and food companies.